The trial of ideas: two tellings of the trial of Gilbert of Poitiers

Clare Monagle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


In 1148 Gilbert of Poitiers, bishop and magister, was brought to trial at the Council of Reims. He was charged with committing heresy in his application of the rules of grammar to the three persons of the Trinity. Most notable among his accusers was Bernard of Clairvaux, who had brought the matter to the attention of the pope. The adversarial structure of the trial, and the luminaries involved, meant that many of the key issues of intellectual life in the period were brought into sharp relief, particularly the question of the applicability of human language to the understanding of sacred doctrine. Otto of Freising and John of Salisbury both provide accounts of the trial, in which they engage heavily with both the political and theological issues of the clash between Bernard and Gilbert. This article considers the manner of their narration of the trial, and the place that their accounts hold in their broader historiographical narrative. This consideration, in turn, will enable a more nuanced sense of the import that the trial held in twelfth-century intellectual life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-130
Number of pages8
JournalViator - Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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